House Approves Higher-Education Reauthorization
Washington--The Democratic-controlled House last week approved a five-year extension of federal programs that provide more than $9 billion annually to college students and higher-education institutions.
In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965, the House, by a vote of 350 to 67, renewed many programs targeted for elimination by the Reagan Administration, and created several new ones. The White House immediately issued a statement opposing the measure.
The bill, HR 3700, provides $111.5 million for numerous teacher-education programs, including new partnerships between schools and colleges to reduce the dropout rate, demonstration programs for midcareer professionals in fields other than education who want to teach, and pilot internship programs for beginning teachers.
It would also resume federal funding of teacher-development centers, which was eliminated by a 1981 budget-reconciliation measure, and would allow college students who become teachers to defer payments on their student loans for three years.
Still in doubt, however, is whether the Senate legislation, which remains in committee, will contain similar provisions, and whether the Congress will ultimately allocate money for them. Many of the existing teacher-education programs, in particular, have not been funded for years.
$10.6 Billion Authorized
Overall, the House bill authorizes $10.6- billion in fiscal 1987 for programs covered by the act, some $1.3 billion less than current authorization levels. But since the Congress has traditionally spent less than the authorized levels, the bill generally brings spending ceilings more in line with appropriations, rather than reducing spending.
The Congress appropriated $9.3 billion for the higher-education programs this year.
Among the bill's many provisions are measures that tighten the eligibility requirements for student grants and loans but increase the amounts that individual students can receive. Some 90 percent of the funds authorized by the Congress for higher education now support grants and loans for students.
The bill would also create new programs or modify existing ones to benefit nontraditional, minority, and disadvantaged students, including a new $110-million program to strengthen historically black colleges and universities, and $45.7- million for institutions that serve the highest percentage of black, Native American, Alaskan, Hawaiian, or Pacific Basin students.
The bill is a product of the House Education and Labor Committee and its postsecondary education subcommittee, both of which have traditionally been friendly to the education community.
The Education Department did not participate in committee hearings, having announced this past September that it would wait until Mr. Reagan submitted his fiscal 1987 budget in January to suggest changes in the act.
According to the committee report, the House bill attempts to target aid to the neediest students, lessen their debt load, and provide for better collection mechanisms to reduce loan-default rates.
"It's not a shrinking of the federal role by any means," said Peter J. Gossens, the director of governmental relations for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, "but it's not the expansion of the federal role that previous reauthorizations have been."
The House amended the committee bill only slightly, beating back an amendment offered by Representative Steve Bartlett, Republican of Texas, that would have frozen appropriations at current levels for all but the student-aid programs.
The Senate, however, is not expected to treat higher education so kindly.
"The Senate is going to do some vastly different things," said Becky Timmons, a governmental-relations specialist with the American Council on Education. "They're going to write a very lean bill."
She added, however, that while it is "not clear if the Republicans will make exceptions for any previously nonfunded programs, if they do, it will be for the teacher-education programs."
The Senate is scheduled to begin markup of a bill on Dec. 12, but is not expected to approve a package until next spring.
The act must be extended by Sept. 30, 1986, or it expires.
Major provisions of the House bill include:
Student Eligibility: The bill requires all students who apply for Guaranteed Student Loans to submit to a needs-analysis test, regardless of their family's income. The current law exempts students whose families earn less than $30,000 from such a test.
It also establishes a single needs-analysis test for all federal student-aid programs except the State Student Incentive Grant Program. The test is based primarily on the method now used to determine need for the three campus-based programs.
Under the bill, students who attend college less than half time would gain eligibility for all federal loan programs except the gsl, but only students 23 years old or older would be able to declare themselves financially independent of their families.
The bill also requires that all students demonstrate their eligibility for Pell grants in order to be eligible for National Direct Student Loans.
Grant and Loan Limits: The bill raises the maximum award for Pell grants from $2,100 to $2,300 in fiscal 1987, and by an additional $200 for each year of the reauthorization. In addition, it limits a student's grant to no more than 60 percent of the cost of attending school in a given year.
But the bill also raises the amount that many students can borrow. Juniors and seniors, for example, could apply for a $5,000 gsl, which is twice the current ceiling on such loans.
The bill raises the maximum Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant from $2,000 to $4,000 in fiscal 1987; the maximum State Student Incentive Grant from $2,000 toinued on Following Page Continued from Preceeding Page
$3,000; and the maximum National Direct Student Loan from $3,000 to $5,000 for freshmen and sophomores, and from $6,000 to $10,000 for juniors and seniors.
It also permits schools to use up to 25 percent of their College Work Study funds for student employment in the private sector, and raises their matching requirement under this program from 20 percent to 25 percent in 1989, and to 30 percent in 1990.
Repayment: The bill extends the grace period for loan repayment from six to nine months. For students who teach in elementary or secondary schools, the grace period is extended to three years. (The committee had approved a grace period for teachers of five years, but it was amended on the House floor.)
Students with debts that exceed $7,500 would be able to consolidate their loans under the terms of the bill, but the interest rate on gsl's would be raised in the fifth year of repayment from 8 to 10 percent.
Minorities: The bill providesllion in 1987 to encourage minorities to enter graduate school.
It also authorizes $12 million in 1987 for three science-improvement programs--two of which are new--targeted for minority students.
The new programs would provide support services for minority students in science and engineering programs at colleges with at least 10 percent minority enrollment, and would help institutions reduce barriers to the entry of minorities into scientific and technical fields.
Continuing Education: In a wholesale revision of Title I of the act, the reauthorization bill would provide $30 million for a new four-year grant program for institutions to develop programs for nontraditional students. It would also provide funds to establish support and counseling services for such students.
Libraries: The act directs all funds for libraries to those colleges that need special help to build their collections.
Nearly a dozen programs designed to improve the recruitment, retention, and training of teachers are included in the bill. Many had been submitted to the House earlier as individual bills. Some were previously authorized, but under different statutes.
According to the committee bill, the programs are intended to "move toward a long-term linkage between the higher-education community and the local elementary and secondary schools, their teachers, and their students in K through 12 classrooms."
The major teacher-education initiatives include:
Funds to Institutions: The bill lifts a restriction that funds for teacher training can be granted only to colleges with existing education departments.
It permits community and technical colleges, which typically are not fully accredited in teacher education, to receive such funds if they establish consortia with accredited four-year institutions.
Midcareer Teacher Training: An amended version of HR 2805--a bill submitted by Representative Rod Chandler, Republican of Washington, that would provide grants to schools with education departments to train midcareer, nontraditional students with college degrees to become teachers--was included in the reauthorization. The measure is authorized for four years at a funding level of $4 million.
The House bill directs the secretary of education to choose one school a year from each of 10 regions for these "demonstration projects." HR 2805 would have limited the program to individuals preparing to teach mathematics and science.
School-Partnership Programs: The bill authorizes the secretary of education to make grants to universities and high schools that form partnerships with business, labor, industry, and other groups, to address the dropout problem.
Based on HR 2557, introduced by Representative Mervyn Dymally, Democrat of California, this program has been authorized at $20 million, and would begin in 1987.
It would operate year round, with 65 percent of the funds spent during the school year. Preference would be given to programs for "at-risk" students.
Teacher Academy Demonstration Projects: A program designed to determine whether an extra year of preservice work would help prepare new teachers for the classroom is included in the bill. In fiscal 1987, $7.5 million is authorized for such projects; it directs the secretary of education to make grants to schools of education in conjunction with one or more school districts.
Professional-Development and Leadership Programs: A modified version of HR 1352, submitted by Representative William D. Ford, Democrat of Michigan, this program authorizes the secretary to make $20 million in grants to local education agencies for professional-development resource centers for teachers.
The program, phased out in the omnibus 1981 budget-reconciliation measure, was funded at $13 million in 1980. It funds year-round development programs and activities designed by teachers.
The reauthorization bill requires the secretary to fund one new program a year in each state. It also transfers authorization of the Leadership in Education and Administrative Development Program--which was approved by the 98th Congress--to the Higher Education Act. Authorized for 1987 at $20 million, it funds centers for principals, superintendents, and other school administrators.
Teacher Scholarships and Fellowships: The Carl D. Perkins Scholarship program is also transferred to the act and renamed the Congressional Teacher Scholarship Program. Enacted by the 98th Congress, the program is authorized at $20 million for 1987.
Also transferred is the National Talented Teacher Fellowship program, authorized at $2 million.
Research, Assessment, and Planning: The bill encourages the Education Department to make a greater effort in research and data collection. It directs the secretary to annually assess current and future teacher supply-and-demand patterns, with particular attention to the effect of state competency tests on minorities.
It also directs the department to gather information on new and emerging specialties and technologies, academic subjects, and occupational areas requiring vocational training.
It would require every state education agency to establish a task force on teacher training before it could be eligible for teacher-education funding under the act.